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RURAL EXPRESS - Jamaica Sustainable Farm Enterprise to develop organic farming

Published:Saturday | November 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Alex Hitt - Photo by Paul H. Williams
Nicola Shirley-Phillips - Photo by Paul H. Williams
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Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer

JOHN'S TOWN, St Thomas:

MORE AND more, people all over the world are eating less cultivated food that has been nourished by man-made fertilisers. Their main concern is that the consumption of the said food contributes to ill-health, and eventually death.

So they are now turning to organic food, which they call 'clean food', food that was not nourished by chemicals. And, right here in Jamaica, there is a growing movement which promotes eating only cleanly cultivated food.

That movement is now getting some overseas support. Beginning last month, the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas (FAVACA) launched a new three-and-a-half-year programme, which will concentrate on 'the development of market-driven organic agricultural production', through the Jamaica Sustainable Farm Enterprise Programme (JSFEP), whose country director-coordinator is Nicola Shirley-Phillips of the Source Farm Foundation, which has been selected as the implementing partner for the programme in Jamaica.

As the country director-coordinator, Shirley-Phillips works with all the stakeholders (local and overseas) to "ensure that all aspect of JSFEP is implemented in an efficient and timely manner".

"It is a lot of responsibility, but I am a big picture person and love work with multiple areas of a project," Shirley-Phillips told Rural Xpress, recently.

With this 'big picture' also in mind, FAVACA Executive Director Demian Pasquarelli "sees significant opportunities for impact, based on previous successes through a strong local partner in the Source Farm Foundation", which, "has been working for the past two years to provide training in permaculture, organic farming, farm economics, and market development for young and beginning farmers".

"We are elated that USAID, along with VEGA, with the implementing body of FAVACA, has made it possible for us to continue this important work," Shirley-Phillips said.

She also said: "The JSFEP is the first time that there has been a programme or enterprise geared toward creating a holistic organic and sustainable business project in Jamaica, and, as a matter of fact, in the world."

The programme brings together all the elements of a successful business solution. The initiative will focus on the parish of St Thomas, initially, where FAVACA will collaborate with local partners to ensure multi-layered sustainable practices across food systems, businesses, institutions, and organisations.

Based on its over 30 years of experience and several development projects in Jamaica, FAVACA said it "aims to empower local farmers ... to address the number of environmental challenges and climate change issues that are hindering economic growth and crop production. Through increasing food security and enterprise profitability, this programme will improve financial services and set a foundation for reproducible disaster-resistant agricultural environments".

Funding

The programme is funded by the United States Agency for International Development, John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer Program and administered by Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance.

"Within Florida's backyard, this new initiative seeks to alleviate the obstacles that currently prevent organic agriculture success and strengthen ties between the United States and Jamaica," FAVACA said.

The major thrust of the programme is volunteerism. Volunteer farmers and other personnel will visit the island to assist local farmer with various aspects of farming. These volunteers, who are experts, are sourced by FAVACA. The first volunteer, Alex Hitt, an organic tomato farmer of North Carolina, USA, has recently spent two weeks in St Thomas. At the moment, another volunteer, Breanne Cubrilovic of the Peace Corps is busy working with farmers.

So far, the main challenge is to get farmers and community members to understand the essence and the goal of the programme, Shirley-Phillips said.

rural@gleanerjm.com